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The 2009 News Review, Part One - January to March 06 Jan 2010

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren McLaren Mercedes MP4-24 Launch, McLaren Technology Centre, Woking, England, 16 January 2009 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing. Formula One Testing, 1-5 March 2009, Jerez, Spain. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) FIAT Punto Abarth gets some air. Arctic Rally, Rovaniemi, Finland, 22-24 January 2009. Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Brawn BGP 001. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Barcelona, Spain, 12 March 2009. (L to R): Jean Todt (FRA).
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Saturday, 23 May 2009

As we adjust to life in 2010, we take time to reflect on the past 12 months and the year that was 2009. Even before the season got underway there were plenty of F1 stories grabbing the headlines - Mark Webber’s astonishing recovery from his cycling accident, Lewis Hamilton’s MBE, Jean Todt’s farewell to Ferrari and and Brawn GP rising from the ashes of the defunct Honda team were just a few of them…

For reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, 2009 gets off to a storming start as he is awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. For former team mate Fernando Alonso, however, a bumpy takeoff from a Kenyan airport makes worldwide headlines. Although no one was injured, Alonso was forced to postpone his travel plans.

Rather than just clocking in some serious sun lounger time, Robert Kubica puts his winter break to good use founding his own karting team. FIA President Max Mosley is also keeping busy writing to the teams to outline his plans for cost cutting, launching the concept of KERS and backing the use of moveable aerodynamic devices. The teams are largely supportive, agreeing to a serious of initiates.

Toro Rosso confirm GP2 graduate Sebastien Buemi will drive for them in ’09, but his team mate remains unconfirmed. The former Honda team, up for sale, is the only squad with no drivers confirmed. Ferrari, meanwhile, are the first to unveil their 2009 challenger. Felipe Massa is proud to be the first to drive the F60, but team principal Stefano Domenicali is wary of the reliability of KERS.

Mark Webber, who broke his leg in a cycling accident the previous November, reveals his recovery is going well. The new Toyota TF109 is launched with an innovative movie trailer-style film, while McLaren take the wraps off the MP4-24 at their Woking base. Following the launch, Ron Dennis announces he is to step down as team principal, with CEO Martin Whitmarsh taking over.

Preparations for the ‘09 season accelerate with a host of car launches. BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld unveils a new ‘aggressive’ green helmet design. An umbrella may have been better for the German, however, as poor weather interrupts the winter tests in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Finnish Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen is made of sterner stuff and he keeps busy by swapping tarmac for snow, competing in the Arctic rally. FIA race director Charlie Whiting, meanwhile, confirms that the safety car rules will alter, with the pit lane remaining open at all times to prevent drivers getting penalised for pitting to avoid running out of fuel.

For McLaren the month ends on a sad note, with news that former team principal and one of its original founders Teddy Mayer has passed away.

Months ahead of hosting its second Grand Prix, Singapore announces it will improve the circuit’s layout to boost overtaking. Webber, meanwhile, appears to make a foray into science fiction as he reveals he has recently sampled the unconventional treatment of cryogenic chamber therapy. After three minutes in -130 degrees Celsius temperatures, he hopes his fitness levels will be boosted.

Along with his ‘aggressive’ new look, Heidfeld has heaps of confidence and reveals he’s targeting the title, not just his debut win in his BMW Sauber. Toro Rosso belatedly announce Sebastien Bourdais will retain his seat for ’09. Pre-season testing dominates the headlines, whilst Renault sponsor ING announce they will pull out of F1 racing at the end of the year.

It’s not often that a sport as forward thinking as Formula One racing features in a museum, but a special exhibition at London’s Science Museum lets the public see how the sport’s technology has influenced other fields of industry. A monocoque wheelchair, a carbon fibre table and lifesaving medical equipment are amongst the exhibits.

Amidst widespread speculation, Honda reveal they are yet to find a serious buyer for team and are finding the sale process ‘difficult’. Meanwhile, plans for a new, American Formula One squad, based in North Carolina, are announced. Just days later the FIA state they are preparing radical rule change proposals for 2010, designed to allow teams to operate on a fraction of current budgets.

The new Force India and Toro Rosso cars are launched, while Honda and Ross Brawn confirm they have reached agreement to secure the future of the team, with ownership passing to team principal Brawn with immediate effect. Hours later, Jenson Button shakes down the newly-named BGP-001 at Silverstone.

Fellow Briton Hamilton is also on home soil, picking up his MBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace. There are dour faces all round at McLaren, however, with the team admitting they are unlikely to challenge for victory at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, although they say the MP4-24’s problems are fixable.

The ‘discussions’ over F1’s future continue, with the FIA announcing that from 2010 the teams will be allowed more technical freedom if they agree to a cost cap of £30 million, to cover ‘expenditure of any kind’. In another cost-cutting measure, the FIA agrees to reduce the cost of superlicences after a meeting with the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA).

Two stalwarts leave their teams, with Jean Todt bidding Ferrari adieu and Tyler Alexander retiring from McLaren after 46 years’ service. Race stewards in Melbourne give the all-clear to the controversial double diffusers run by Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams. Rivals protest and the FIA sets a date for an appeal hearing.

Click Here to see Part Two.